Cinderella is the live-action remake of the 1950 Disney film based on the fairy tale by Charles Perrault. Kenneth Branagh brings to (real) life the classic fairy tale of the good-hearted Cinderella (Lilly James), a servant under her evil Stepmother (Cate Blanchett) who gets the magical opportunity to go to the ball and meet the Prince (Richard Madden).
After Maleficent last year, I was done getting excited over live-action remakes of classic Disney movies, mostly because that film highlighted that these kinds of film aren't aiming to rekindle the magic of its predecessor but instead, bring darkness and edginess to the Disney world, which is incredibly dumb. Thankfully, Cinderella isn't like that.
Director Kenneth Branagh succeeds in updating and modernizing this fairy tale while also keeping in tune with what made the original work so well to begin with. Unlike Maleficent, where they completely disregard its roots and opt to focus on the story "from another point of view", this film playfully adapts its source material, showing much love and appreciation for the classic work but also the willingness to expand upon it.
Through new backstory, we're given insight as to why Cinderella chooses to stay with her Evil Stepmother and why she is the courageous and kind person that she is known to be. We're also given a Prince that actually has some character. During the added scene of Cinderella meeting the Prince in the woods, we're shown that neither Cinderella nor the Prince wanted to be admired for their titles, but instead, who they are on the inside, which would be keeping in line with the message of the first film, albeit done more efficiently.
Mostly everyone does a good job in their respective roles, but Lilly James and Richard Madden really stand out with their chemistry together and their individual character's charm. We're not introduced to action heroine Cinderella (like Kristen Stewart's Snow White or Mia Wasikowska's Alice), and we didn't need to be. The character completely stands strongly on her own, and Kenneth Branagh does an excellent job recapturing the magic and charm the Disney classic brought, while also
adding some Downton Abbey-esque elegance to it.
If I had to note one flaw of the film, it'd be Cate Blanchett's portrayal of the Evil Stepmother. I'm quite shocked that I didn't like her performance, for I predicted she'd steal the movie while Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy God Mother would end up the oddball. However, that didn't end up being the case.
I've always known the Evil Stepmother to be a woman who uses her elegance to shroud her truly dark and evil nature. Our first introduction to Blanchett's portrayal made it look like that was going to be the case for this film, but Blanchett would go back and forth between the cruel, elegant stepmother and the obnoxious, flamboyant madame numerous times throughout the film. It felt very inconsistent, and I would've preferred her to just stick to the more toned down (yet equally as powerful) performance rather her act as animated as the step-sisters.
That'd have to be the only flaw I had with the film, and it was far from being unpleasant to watch. Blanchett still disappeared into the character.
Branagh brings all the magic and charm of classic Disney to a live-action modernized telling of Cinderella, and it manages to incorporate all the fundamentals of the original film while also improving upon its shortcomings. Lilly James and Richard Manning are great in it and it's extremely fun, so you'll definitely have a ball with it.
Be sure to check out my review of another Disney classic, Mulan, on Audiences Everywhere.